Epson has brought a new and improved version of its Moverio smart glasses to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, offering significantly improved display technology and a lighter frame for all your augmented reality (AR) needs. We dropped by the Epson booth for a first-hand look at the Moverio BT-300.
Amid all the excitement surrounding virtual reality, don't forget the augmented version too, where computer graphics and projections are overlaid on top of (and respond to) objects in the real world. Microsoft's HoloLens is one example of the technology in action, and Google Glass may have eventually gone there as well had it continued to evolve. Glass as we knew it was just a floating a 2D notification center off to the side of your field of view, but Epson is aiming to outdo that.
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Where Glass was designed to be worn on a regular basis, the Moverio is more for specific purposes, such as museum tours, exploring venues, retail experiences and medical procedures. Imagine seeing a rolling landscape as you cycle on your exercise bike, for example, or having a map of restricted zones or directions float in front of your eyes while you're sending your drone up into the skies.
Traditionally the Moverio has been aimed at people in the workplace (training mechanics, assisting doctors, providing visualizations for construction workers and so on), but Epson seems increasingly keen to market these devices to consumers too. This time last year the company said it had shifted "tens of thousands" of its Moverio BT-200 glasses, and now the BT-300 upgrade has arrived.
The headline feature is a new Si-OLED (silicon-based Organic Light Emitting Diode) 720p display, replacing the qHD TFT LCD display of its predecessor and projecting sharper images and more vibrant colors in front of your eyes. These new glasses are also 20 percent lighter than the BT-200 models they're replacing, which should make for a more comfortable wearing experience over longer periods of time. Oh, and the device can take photos and videos too, thanks to an integrated 5-megapixel camera (another upgrade over the BT-200).
We spent a few minutes testing out the Moverio BT-300 smart glasses at the Fira Gran Via venue in Barcelona and came away very impressed. The projected images, whether showing text or pictures, were very sharp and clear. The headset was light enough not to be a nuisance and we wouldn't expect you'd have any problem wearing these glasses all day if necessary. We didn't notice any lag or stuttering either, thanks in part to the newly-upgraded Intel Atom chipset and Android 5.1 OS inside the specs.
Epson's demos covered a painting that became animated, a drone pilot simulation and an object recognition app that brings up extra information about whatever your eyes are pointing toward. It's apps like these, whether from Epson or third-party developers, that are going to be crucial in tempting consumers to stump up for a pair of BT-300 glasses – otherwise they'll stay stuck in businesses and museum tours for the time being.
The Moverio BT-300 smart glasses go on sale later this year and you can pre-order a pair now from the Epson site for US$799.
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